Raw Charge Round Table: Expansion Draft

The Raw Charge staff debates which defensemen the Tampa Bay Lightning should protect in the expansion draft, trading Johnson, the value of Drouin, and Killorn’s contract

(With special guest, BoltsGuy04.)

Is Jonathan Drouin really that irreplaceable?

Jonathan Drouin is a 22 year old restricted free agent who will need a new contract this year. His last contract was a three-year entry-level deal with an annual salary of $894,167. He will command a significant raise.

Actium (Matt): Here’s the blunt truth. Look at the wingers Tampa Bay has and tell me who, outside of Nikita Kucherov, is an offensive threat with the tools that Drouin has? I’ll wait. The Tampa Bay Lightning are much stronger with Drouin on board. There is no debating this.

JustinG.: Nope.  No one is irreplaceable in the eyes of Steve Yzerman.  They are all just pieces in a great Stanley Cup puzzle for him to move about. That being said, Drouin is pretty important to the puzzle, kind of like a corner piece.

Saima: I don’t want to see Drouin moved. I am adamantly against that decision. I was also against Cory Conacher for Ben Bishop, but that worked out pretty nicely. I agree with Justin here - nobody is truly irreplaceable and without knowing what someone is offering for Drouin, it’s hard to say whether or not he should be traded.

BoltsGuy04: Drouin’s hands are otherworldly. His skill set is unparalleled. Does he turn the puck over more than Cooper and fans would wish? Sure. But his vision and hockey sense are absolutely insane. The Lightning need his skill in the lineup alongside that of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

GeoFitz: While he did a lot to raise their offensive production, imagine a season of Drouin on the wing of Stamkos and Ondrej Palat for a whole year. That could easily be a 200+ point line and you’d still have a lot of possibilities in a second line anchored by Brayden Point and Kucherov. The Lightning also just don’t have the kind of dynamic winger waiting in the wings that I’d expect to replace a player of Drouin’s skill.

GeoFitz: I think we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg for his skill. He made it to the 50 point plateau this year as well as having a big uptick in his goal scoring as he hit 20 goals. He got moved around a lot during the year due to all of the injuries and spent a significant amount of time with Valtteri Filppula and Brian Boyle.

BoltsGuy04: Having three elite forwards is a nice boon for a contending team, assuming Tampa Bay acquires a top-4 defenseman. In addition, having three elite options up front provides a sort of insurance for injuries if Kucherov and/or Stamkos goes down for any period of time.

Saima: What if the Arizona Coyotes offer Oliver Ekman-Larsson? What if the Colorado Avalanche wanted to reunite the one, two punch of Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, so they offered a king’s ransom for Drouin? I have no idea why either team would do this, but it could happen. Don’t overestimate the intelligence of other general managers. It was just last summer that we saw P.K. Subban traded for Shea Weber. I have faith that Yzerman will weigh all of his options and do what’s best for the team.

With the upcoming expansion draft, should the team protect Slater Koekkoek or Jake Dotchin?

The Tampa Bay Lightning will likely choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie from being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights. The consensus among the writers here is that Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman will take two of the three available protection slots for defensemen. The third is up for debate.

JustinG.: I say protect Slater Koekkoek and expose Jake Dotchin.  We actually don’t know how good Dotchin is.  Let’s face it, a garbage can would look good paired up with Victor Hedman.

BoltsGuy04: Dotchin isn’t really a top-pairing defenseman yet, and he may never get there. He was a good partner for Hedman, but at this point in his development, he is really a third-pairing guy. Someday he may take the Stralman route and eventually be a solid number two, but his current upside is in his rugged play and solid, bottom pair minutes.

JustinG.: Dotchin’s lack of discipline since going back to Syracuse has been a little troubling (Toronto Marlies fans may use a different word than “troubling”).

Actium (Matt): Koekkoek is the more valuable defenseman of the two. That’s the truth. Dotchin is useful, but we can live without him. Koekkoek has the offensive upside that Tampa Bay needs moving forward.

JustinG.: Also, Koekkoek is young enough that even if he isn’t in the Lightning’s future plans, he could be used as a trade chip to bring in a more experienced blueliner.

Actium (Matt): This team cannot rely on Hedman and Stralman alone to help the offense. Hopefully the coaching staff puts Koekkoek in a better position to succeed; puck moving defensemen are hard to come by in the NHL.

BoltsGuy04: The reason that Koekkoek needs to be protected here is due to his upside. Koekkoek can still be a number three, and maybe even a number two defenseman some day. He should, without a doubt, be playing on the second pairing in Tampa Bay.

GeoFitz: Koekkoek does have the higher upside of the two even though a lot of fans fell in love with Dotchin this season. Koekkoek’s development has been slow, and it usually is slower for defensemen, but it was also hampered by having three seasons in juniors cut short by shoulder injuries. Ultimately though, I think both get exposed as the Lightning acquire a defenseman in trade before the expansion draft that they will need to protect.

Saima: I’m going to cheat a little and say the Bolts need to protect both. As everyone else has noted, Koekkoek has a lot of potential and we’re not really sure of what Dotchin will become. The pipeline is alarmingly low on defensive prospects who can hold their own in the NHL, so Yzerman should offer the Vegas Golden Knights a lower round draft pick in exchange for the guarantee that they won’t take either one of these players.

What about the pros and cons of trading Tyler Johnson?

Tyler Johnson is a 26 year old restricted free agent who will need a new contract this year. His last contract was 3.33 million per year for three years.

Saima: Pros: Tyler Johnson could be a valuable enough trade chip to net the second pairing defenseman that the Lightning so desperately need. He’s coming off his bridge deal and will likely command a significant raise, so trading him and promoting Brayden Point to second-line center could save some valuable cap space for other guys, most notably Drouin.

Actium (Matt): It saves us some money and cap space while allowing Point to firmly grasp the second center position. Trading Johnson could also provide the Lightning with the top 4 defensemen it sorely needs.

BoltsGuy04: Pros: Being able to protect another forward if traded prior to the Expansion Draft (the trade would likely occur at or after the Entry Draft), Johnson has had some inconsistency lately due to injuries dating back to the ’15 Cup Final.

Actium (Matt): Cons? We don’t have a lot of NHL ready centers outside of our top three: Stamkos, Johnson, Point. Our fourth line center will likely be Cedric Paquette. With Johnson gone, we will be relying on a young player from Syracuse (because I highly doubt Yzerman will venture into free agency and risk overpaying a #3 center) like Michael Peca or Yanni Gourde (if Gourde re-signs) to fill in at the #3 center position.

Saima: Cons: As everyone else noted, he’s a top six guy with a pretty solid track record of delivering goals in big moments. It breaks my heart to say this because everyone knows Brayden Point is my absolute favorite, but we don’t know that he’s ready to make the jump to full-time second line center. I’d like to believe he’s ready, but half a season at that position doesn’t give you a long track record of consistent success.

Actium (Matt): Yes, Point was an exception; however, Point also didn’t play center for the first few months of the season (injuries pushed him into the role and he excelled). Also, not every young player will pull off a “Brayden Point.”

GeoFitz: The biggest con is more so just a question of faith in Point stepping into the second line center spot. It also takes a big hit out of the Lightning’s center depth, especially if Vladislav Namestnikov ends up being a victim of the expansion draft. Then you’re looking at a rookie like Matthew Peca to step in on the second line if Stamkos or Point were to be hurt. There’s quite a bit of risk there in trading Johnson without having a good back-up plan.

Actium (Matt): Yeah, it’s entirely possible it could work out, but it’s unknown and risky to give up a known quantity in Johnson for an unknown one.

Saima: Losing Johnson leaves a void that we’re not sure we can replace. On top of that, Johnson strikes me as the type of player who would take a hometown discount to stay with the Lightning. After all, he called Tampa his “second home” in his exit interview and Jon Cooper is the only coach he’s ever played for in his professional hockey career.

Is Killorn's contract as terrible as it seems?

Last summer Alex Killorn was signed to a seven-year contract with an average annual value (salary cap hit) of $4.45 million per year. He will be 33 years old when his deal expires in 2023. He has a no-trade clause that comes into effect July 1 of this year. That clause becomes a modified no-trade clause in 2020 which means that Killorn can be traded to a limited number of teams based on a list he submits to the Tampa Bay Lightning management.

JustinG.: In my opinion, part of what hurts Killorn is that there is nothing that he does extremely well. He’s not overly fast, he doesn’t have a wicked hard shot, and he doesn’t run people over like an out of control Radko Gudas.  He is just a solid all-around player who makes us laugh on Instagram.

Actium (Matt): Alright, I’ve probably been the most vocal Raw Charge member about Killorn. I’ve advocated for him to be shipped out throughout the year. Why? He’s paid too much for too long and isn’t a consistent scoring threat to warrant his salary. If we had gotten him around the 3.75 million for five years I wouldn’t have a problem.

JustinG.: Is it too long? Of course it is.  I’m not as negative on Killorn as some other folks around here.  I think he’s an extremely serviceable forward.  Is he streaky? Sure, why not?  Let’s not forget that he missed out on his favorite linemate (Steven Stamkos) all season as well.

Saima: I think we’re a little spoiled with the amazing hometown discounts of Stamkos and Hedman. It makes Killorn’s contract look comparatively atrocious. Is it great? No. Is it terrible? Not really. A seven year deal for a 26 year old power forward is excessive length, regardless of the cost.

Actium (Matt): 4.45 million over seven years for a player who has A) never hit 20 goals in a season and B) has a penchant for taking horribly timed and boneheaded penalties just seems like a contract that isn’t exactly right for Tampa Bay moving forward. Yes, he had two playoffs runs that were nice (a result more due to his line mates than himself) and he kills penalties, but Killorn’s point totals are something the Lightning can replace with cheaper players.

GeoFitz: Yes and no. It’s about two years too long in my opinion, though the salary is about right for a player like Killorn. My general rule of thumb for free agent forwards is approximately $1 million per 10 points they’re expected to produce. Centers get a little bit of a bump for positional scarcity. The rule isn’t perfect, but by that rule, Killorn got a little more than he should have.

BoltsGuy04: Yes. No doubt. Six more years the Lightning will be paying him as if he’s a top-six forward. Sometimes Killorn plays like it; other times, he does not. He is very streaky, and he is a great, great player to have in the playoffs.

Saima: I’m not concerned about Killorn’s contract because I don’t know that he’ll be in Tampa for all seven years. Both Ben Bishop and Valtteri Filppula had similar modified no-trade contract clauses and that didn’t stop Yzerman from shipping both of them out of town at the deadline. So no, it’s not a terrible contract. If Killorn performs worse than expected, Yzerman will find a way to trade him.

BoltsGuy04: When he signed that contract last summer, I was not the happiest due to the term and cap hit. It will be very hard to get his contract off the books, but Yzerman needs to explore his options. Perhaps he protects Namestnikov over Killorn and/or incentivizes the Golden Knights with a prospect or draft pick so that they chose Killer. That $4.45 million cap hit will be greatly needed when Kuch, Point (summer of 2019) and Vasy (summer of 2020) require new deals.

GeoFitz: If the deal was for $4 million flat, I’d be a lot happier about it, but overall the salary isn’t bad if he can continue to produce 40 point seasons over the next four or five seasons before he declines. Seeing as how players like him tend to hit a wall around 30, I’m hoping that we’re not regretting the length of this contract in three seasons.

Actium (Matt): Let’s also not forget Nikita Kucherov’s comments about getting paid and then not caring about performing. Only four Lightning players were paid big money in the offseason: Stamkos, Hedman, Kucherov, and Killorn. Stamkos, Hedman, and Kucherov clearly played their asses off this season and elevated their game. Killorn? Not so much.

JustinG.: In order for his contract to seem more “meh” than “Oh my god that’s horrible!” he is going to have to adjust to being a third or fourth line player (whatever that means in today’s NHL).  The Lightning have too much talent at the forward position for him to be taking up a spot on the scoring lines.  If he can transition to being a defensive forward who chips in 35-40 points his contract will be just fine.

So yeah: What do you guys think?